Year 2021 opened strong for the Paris Economic Development Center with two announcements — Metro Gate announced the creation of 40 new jobs while expanding its footprint by 20,000 square feet, and the Texas Department of Transportation closed on 37 acres in the PEDC’s Gene Stallings Business Park with plans to build a district headquarter facility.
Investing in Metro Gate’s expansion to support new job creation was important and signifies our commitment to foster, support and grow our existing industry. They started hiring for new positions immediately and have added 14 new jobs to date. Expansion plans are on track with nearly 10,000 square feet of new buildings constructed, new employee parking and an expanded laydown yard. Plans to complete another 12,000 square feet for a new welding shop are expected in the next 90 days.
The land sale to TXDOT was critical in retaining its district headquarters in Paris as well as the 160 jobs serving this office. We are excited about its plans to build a new-state-of-the art-district headquarter facility that will anchor the Gene Stallings Park.
Both projects were fantastic wins for our community and will create and retain 240 direct jobs with an annual payroll of $12.6 million and support 133 indirect/induced jobs with $5 million in new annual payroll.
Board Planning Session
In February, we held our first Board Planning Session. We had great discussion on our land inventory, the most important factors in site selection, and incentives. Ultimately, we established three working committees to review and make recommendations to the board on marketing, incentives and land. To date, all committees have met and are making good progress.
BR&E and Outlook
For the 2020-21 fiscal year, we have conducted 12 site visits or video conferences with existing businesses as part of our business retention and expansion program. As we come out of the pandemic, we hope to schedule more visits to engage and assist our local industry.
We also plan to partner with Paris Junior College on launching a business survey that will help us better understand workforce challenges, opportunity areas for expansion and recruitment and more. We hope this process also reveals general business intelligence for our region that will inform our strategies and programming going forward. We need to be proactive in understanding and addressing the needs of our employers.
We expect to see more activity in attraction. We have already seen an uptick in leads as companies start or resume expansion plans or relocations. Since January, we have received about 20 new leads, met requirements to submit proposals on half and are in negotiations on three projects.
We continue to remain generally optimistic about the economic climate. We hope to see more jobs projects and an improved unemployment rate while supporting larger initiatives that all communities are facing like attention to workforce upskilling and reskilling. The PEDC and our board have started conversations to ensure we have site-ready product, relevant and focused marketing, and competitive incentives. We have a community, partner organizations and leaders that get it, so, yes, we are optimistic about the future.